Digital enablers in URBiNAT cities and deprived urban areas
The use of digital enablers in URBiNAT cities and deprived urban areas is elaborated on in a newly-released URBiNAT report. The seven URBiNAT cities (three Frontrunners and 4 Followers) all either already use, or plan to use, digital enablers in relation to the co-creation of NBS and Healthy Corridors, and or related purposes. So far, a number of webinars have been organised focusing on the use of digital enablers to promote citizen engagement in URBiNAT cities. The exchange of ideas regarding digital enablers and citizen engagement will also continue throughout the URBiNAT project.
The categories of Frontrunner, Follower and Observer cities, used as part of the project, do not translate into a corresponding hierarchy in terms of experience of using digital enablers. The preconditions and strategies when it comes to digital enablers varies across URBiNAT cities. For example, the state of the digital infrastructure – such as Internet connection, access to digital tools, and level of digital literacy – differs from city to city, influencing the conditions, and thereby also what approach and arrangements are most suitable and effective when it comes to the application of digital enablers.
On the one hand, Internet access and broadband capacity is at an acceptable level in URBiNAT cities. On the other, citizens display limited access to personal digital tools such as computers and smartphones, largely due to socio-economic factors. In most cities, however, community centres fulfil important roles in providing digital tools for common use. Digital literacy levels vary systematically with regards to both age and education, with the more educated and younger naturally displaying higher literacy rates. That said, older users and special groups of “troubled” younger users, can also be engaged effectively if targeted properly based on insights into how to facilitate reaching and motivating them.
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The report includes a mapping of digital enablers in each city, as well as examples of digital enablers developed in response to COVID-19. During the pandemic, various measures – such as training and the provision of digital tools – have been put in place in URBiNAT study areas. In Porto, a specific website on COVID-19 related issues was launched on the city platform, and education sessions about COVID-19 were made available via YouTube. In Siena, a website called “Siena restart together” was launched. And, in Brussels, where many households faced with a shortage of tools, laptops and other digital tools were collected by volunteers as COVID-19 restrictions demanded online work and home schooling.
So far, few digital enablers have been developed for the specific study areas of URBiNAT. Each of them nevertheless have their own specific experience of using digital enablers for other purposes, which can be usefully built upon. In Nantes, for example, the online city platform “Dialogue Citoyen” provides support for citizen participation more generally. In Høje Taastrup, the online platform “Innosite” encourages residents to provide feedback on the development of the area, and the municipality moreover piggybacks on existing Facebook pages to communicate with residents.
Welcome to raise comments, suggestions and questions here. We are curious to learn about your views and experiences, for example related to the following questions:
- What examples of digital enablers used in deprived urban areas are you familiar with?
- What are key challenges when developing digital enablers in deprived urban areas?
- What are important prerequisites for successful use of digital enablers (e.g. digital infrastructure, digital literacy), and how to accomplish these?